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Anakin could feel Ferus drawing closer with every step. His feet pounded a steady beat into the dirt path, providing a bass line against the ebb and flow of his concentration. He reached out, felt the Force flowing around him -- around Ferus, between them, through them. Ferus was only a meter behind him now, feet pounding at a faster pace to match Anakin's long stride. Anakin breathed, and waited, and listened. Then he struck.

Ferus was not caught off-guard, bringing his lightsaber up in a sweeping movement to block Anakin's blow. Anakin retreated and struck again. Ferus parried, taking a step back. Anakin paused for a second, then leveled a series of short, quick blows, the last of which caught the sleeve of Ferus' tunic. The smell of singed fabric filled Anakin's nostrils as he pressed on, striking blow after blow, his movements perfectly timed and extremely efficient, hammering at the other padawan relentlessly. Ferus feinted to one side, then stepped back in a move designed to expose his opponent's flank. Anakin anticipated the move, and slammed into Ferus instead, sending the boy tumbling to the ground. Lightsabers extinguished, they wrestled in the grass, each briefly gaining control before being rolled by the other. Anakin managed to pin Ferus at last, using his greater height to his advantage. Ferus's arms were pinned awkwardly above his head, and Anakin's weight on the boy's thighs kept him firmly on the ground.

Ferus had lost, but he was not giving up. Anakin held the struggling boy down fairly easily. A smile spread across his face as he felt Ferus's frustration rise sharply.

"You've lost. Admit it." Ferus glared at him, lips pressed into a thin line. "I won. Come on, let's hear it." Anakin knew that such gloating was beneath the conduct of a Jedi, but he couldn't help it. He knew that if their positions were reversed, Ferus would have hopped off of him immediately, extended a hand to help him up, and offered constructive criticism.

A twinge of guilt surfaced through the elation in Anakin's mind. He sighed heavily and loosened his tight grip on Ferus's wrists. "Your eyes darted to the right just before the feint. You completely broadcast your intentions." Ferus relaxed beneath him considerably, nodding but not meeting Anakin's gaze. Anakin released his hands and sat up, still straddling Ferus's hips.

"And you could have pinned me if you'd shifted your weight slightly to the left in that roll. Want to try it again?"

Ferus looked mildly surprised, but nodded. Anakin rolled onto his back beside Ferus, gesturing for him to follow. Ferus sat up and swung his leg over Anakin's body.

"Let's see... you were on top of me, and then we rolled to the... that way, and then I pushed up here with my knee like this and knocked you off balance. If you had anticipated that and shifted your weight to the left, I wouldn't have been able to get on top of you." Anakin looked up to see Ferus staring at him strangely. "What?"

Ferus looked away and shook his head. "Nothing. Ready?" He stretched himself over Anakin's body and Anakin pushed against him, causing them to roll to the right. Anakin waited for the right moment and pushed against Ferus's thigh with his knee. Ferus anticipated the move and shifted his weight, pushing Anakin back down. Anakin then pushed with his other knee, catching Ferus completely off-guard, rolled him over, and pinned him once more. Ferus laughed, though his features were somewhat tight with frustration.

Anakin grinned and sat up, pinning Ferus's hips to the ground once again with his greater weight. "That was better, you know."

Ferus opened his eyes and met Anakin's with a hazy but unflinching gaze, his expression one of curiosity. Anakin smiled broadly, pleased that he had controlled himself. This time, he didn't want to gloat at all. He was having fun. So often his interactions with Ferus felt like competitions, ones he frequently lost because of his own lack of patience. But this was different, this was--

"Let me up." Ferus pushed at Anakin's chest with his hands and squirmed beneath him.

Anakin frowned slightly. That sounded like a challenge. Thoughts of gloating drifted back into his mind as he caught the boy's hands and pinned them back down to he ground.

"I mean it, Anakin, get off me!" Ferus was struggling in earnest now, and his emotions had spiked in a strange way.

Anakin held him down firmly, not sure what he had done wrong. He couldn't have been hurting him. Was Ferus finally showing a little human emotion at being defeated? Anakin had no intention of giving up his victory this easily. He leaned forward, grinning wickedly, pressing his weight along Ferus' length. "What's wrong now?"

"Ani, please!" Ferus whimpered, closing his eyes.

At that moment Anakin became distinctly aware of an erection pressing into his groin. He released Ferus and rolled off of him quickly, watching with a mixture of surprise and amusement as Ferus sat up and pressed his head between his raised knees. An awkward silence stretched between them.

"I'm sorry," Anakin said at last. "I didn't realize... or I wouldn't have held you down like that." Liar, he chastised himself immediately. He was already regretting moving away so quickly. He was already half hard just from the thought wrestling with him had aroused the other boy. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about."

Ferus only snorted in response, eyes still fixed on the ground between his feet.

"Happens to me all the time at the worst possible moments," Anakin offered. He moved to sit beside Ferus and nudged him with his shoulder companionably. Ferus glanced at him tentatively, one eyebrow raised, and Anakin grinned. "My master and I were witnesses at a treaty signing on T'polan 4 about a year ago. When we arrived, we immediately realized that everyone at the ceremony, except for us, was completely naked."

"Really?" One corner of the older boy's mouth turned up, as if he was trying not to smile.

"And to seal the agreement, the two very beautiful rulers of the opposing planets had sex on the ceremonial platform, right in front of where we were sitting."

Ferus was grinning now. "Didn't you know that was going to happen?"

Anakin shook his head. "We had no idea. Apparently it was a part of their tradition that someone had neglected to mention to us before. The nudity was bad enough, but when those two women started kissing and touching each other... I got a raging hard-on instantly." He grinned at Ferus, happy to have the other padawan's rapt attention. "And I don't think I was the only one. I have never seen Obi-Wan look so uncomfortable in my entire apprenticeship. I don't think he liked having to watch a sex act, in public, sitting next to his 16-year-old padawan."

"What happened?"

"Well, one of them got on her knees and--"

"No, I mean... what did you do?" Ferus rolled his eyes and looked at his feet again. Anakin was delighted to see a light flush spread across his cheek.

"What did I do?" He slid one arm behind Ferus, resting his hand on the ground and brushing against the boy's back in the process. "Well... I slid my hand into my leggings, under my robe so no one could see." Ferus was chewing his lower lip almost anxiously. Anakin leaned a little closer and whispered, "Then I jerked off, nice and slow, right there on the stage, watching the Queen of T'polan 4 eat out the Queen of T'polan 5." Ferus's breathing had become slightly erratic. Anakin leaned in until his lips brushed his ear. "And I came when she did." He sat back, watching the other padawan's face.

Ferus blinked and swallowed before turning to look at Anakin, wide-eyed. "You really did that?"

Anakin broke into a grin. "Fuck no! Of course not!"

Ferus gasped and swatted at Anakin's arm. "You are such a... I thought you were serious!"

"Well, I thought about it. Wouldn't you? And I did do it, as soon as I got back to my own room, replaying that scene in my mind over and over..." He stuck his tongue out slightly and rolled his eyes back in his head. Ferus laughed again, pushing Anakin's torso away teasingly. Anakin caught his hands and pushed back, pressing Ferus onto his back with surprising ease.

"So, you see," Anakin said softly, "that was really a bad time to have a hard-on."

"At least no one else knew about it at the time." Ferus smiled up at him in a way Anakin thought could be perceived as inviting.

He stretched out on his side next to Ferus, propping his head up on his hand. "Well, my master sure as hell knew. That's not what made it bad, though." He studied the grass between them for a moment before continuing. "I couldn't do anything about it. I just had to sit there and watch two people having sex, while I got more and more aroused. My dick was aching and there wasn't a fucking thing I could do but sit there and pretend to just observe, serene and dignified. It was awful!" He picked a few stray blades of grass off of Ferus's chest. The boy shivered slightly at the contact. Anakin smiled slyly. "Your situation is not like that at all."

Ferus took a shaky breath but did not look away. "What is my situation like, then?"

"You can do something about it, if you want to." Anakin leaned down close enough to almost brush his lips against Ferus's. "All you have to do is ask, you know."

Ferus swallowed hard and closed his eyes. "What exactly do you want me to ask?" His voice was barely a whisper.

"What do you want to do?" Anakin whispered back, struggling not to give in to the temptation to just take that mouth.

"I... I don't know, Anakin."

Anakin sighed and rolled onto his back. "Well, when you decide, let me know." He was not going to make the first move. He had all but thrown himself at the other boy, and he would not let himself be manipulated into a situation where Ferus could blame him for anything that happened between them. If Ferus wanted it, he would have to ask for it.

"Ani..." a tentative voice by his ear whispered. Anakin smiled at his childhood nickname being used in so intimate a manner. Very few people were permitted to call him that, and until now, Ferus had not been on that very short list. He turned his head towards Ferus to find himself nose-to-nose with the other boy, who'd rolled on his side. He said nothing in response but raised his eyebrows slightly. Ferus traced Anakin's lips with his fingertips, staring intently. Anakin waited, trying to calm his suddenly pounding heart, trying to resist the impulse to open his mouth and draw one of those fingers inside.

Ferus hesitated a moment longer, and then kissed him. It was quite a sweet kiss, with none of the frantic tongue-tangling that Anakin was accustomed to experiencing in the dark corners of sex clubs. It was slow and gentle, with only a slight hint of passion underneath it. Ferus pulled away, keeping his eyes closed for several more seconds. He flopped onto his back and stared up at the sky. "That was interesting."

Anakin laughed. "Interesting? What was so interesting about it?"

"I thought you'd be a better kisser than that."

"Oh, really?" Anakin laughed. "I was just letting you kiss me, you know. I didn't even try to kiss back."

Ferus clicked his tongue in amusement. "Excuses, excuses. Really, Ani, I was expecting fireworks or something, after the way you've been talking."

"After the way...? What do you mean?" Anakin rolled onto his side so that he was looking down at Ferus one more.

"Oh, that you have all this experience. I'm starting to think it's just talk." He smiled wryly.

Oh, a challenge! Anakin thought. He watched Ferus's face for a moment to be certain -- he had a habit of rushing into things without thinking about them very much, and this would be a bad time to read someone incorrectly.

"Just talk, eh? Are you asking for a demonstration of my superior kissing abilities?"

"Superior!" Ferus snorted, but his eyes sparkled. "I doubt that."

"I doubt you've ever kissed anyone. You wouldn't even know how good I am."

Ferus shrugged. "If it's that good, then I think I would know."

Anakin gave him a cheeky grin. "Are you certain you want to experience this? People have fallen hopelessly in love with me after one kiss, you know. It's quite dangerous."

Ferus laughed. "You are so full of shit!"

Anakin had never heard Ferus swear before. "And you're fucking naive. You've never had a real kiss and you know it."

"Then maybe you should shut up and give me a real kiss instead of talking about it!"

"You want me to kiss you?"

"Yes, I want you to kiss me."

"All right, then."

Anakin gently traced Ferus's jaw with one finger, following the movement with his eyes before leaning down and lightly pressing his lips against the boy's well-defined cheekbone. Then he kissed the corner of his mouth, then his chin, then the tip of his nose. He hovered millimeters above Ferus's lips, as close as he could bear without touching.

"Open your eyes," he whispered. Ferus complied, and Anakin held his gaze as he brushed his lips lightly, teasingly, against the slightly parted ones beneath him. He waited until he heard a small whimper escape from those lips, and then he relented, pressing his mouth onto Ferus's softly. He teased those lips apart with his tongue and explored the warm mouth beneath him as slowly as he could bear. Ferus melted into the kiss, moaning into Anakin's mouth, sliding his arms around his back and pulling him down on top of him. Anakin gave himself over to the experience then, pouring his pent-up sexual frustration into the other boy, gentleness becoming barely-restrained passion in the blink of an eye. He was hard now, and felt a strong urge to grind himself against Ferus. It wouldn't take much at this point -- just a little friction. He needed the release, he really did...

Ferus pushed at his shoulders and Anakin pulled out of the kiss abruptly, shocked at how aroused he had become. Ferus was breathing heavily, and had a panicked look on his face.

"What's wrong?"

"I... that was moving too fast. I'm sorry."

Anakin sat up, away from temptation, regaining control over his body with every breath. "Yeah... sorry. I got carried away."

"You were right," Ferus said, smiling. "You are a good kisser."

Anakin grinned. "I'm good at other things too."

Ferus frowned slightly at the suggestion in his tone. "What are you talking about?"

Anakin glanced down at his own tented leggings. "We're in the same condition now. Want to do something about that?"

Ferus sat up, mildly disturbed. "Anakin, I... Kissing is one thing, but that's something else altogether."

Anakin forced himself to pause and choose his words carefully. "Is it any different than you going back to your room after kissing me and jerking off?"

Ferus didn't even blink. "Yes! That makes it sex, and..." He paused, seeming to collect himself before continuing. "Anakin, I'm sorry if I've given you the wrong impression. I've done my bit of experimenting, and it's in the past."

Anakin rolled his eyes before he could stop himself.

Ferus narrowed his gaze. "What did that mean?"

Anakin sighed heavily. Did he really want to have this conversation with the Perfect Padawan? "Nothing, Ferus. Never mind."

"It isn't nothing, Anakin. Sexual relationships are inappropriate for padawans our age. They distract us from our training, and disrupt out connection to the Force." He sounded like he was quoting directly from Humanoid Sexuality: Myths, Truths, and the Jedi Code.

Anakin allowed himself to smirk. "Who said anything about a relationship? I was just hoping for a quick fuck."

Ferus struggled not to look shocked, and mostly failed. "Just a fuck? Is that all it would be to you?"

"Honestly? Yes."

Ferus's face was impassive. "How can you be so certain? Sex triggers complex emotions, Anakin. You can't just go around... fucking people whenever you feel like it, without serious consequences."

Anakin snorted, leaning back on his hands. He was starting to enjoy this conversation.
"You don't know what you're talking about."

Ferus's eyes narrowed. "And I suppose you do?"

Anakin could see a strange mix of emotions flicker across the older boy's face: curiosity, fear, disgust. Anakin began to worry he had gone too far. No one else knew about his extra-curricular activities, and Ferus was the last person to whom he ever would have considered confessing. He exemplified Anakin's definition of a straight-laced, traditional Jedi.

Then again, he would have said the same of his master until a few days ago. Still, this was not the time for this conversation. He knew Ferus was interested, even if the boy wasn't ready to admit it. If he played his cards right, he might get into the boy's pants yet.

He looked up to see Ferus staring at him intently, trying to read his expression. He plastered on his sweetest smile -- the one that always worked on Obi-Wan.

"Ferus, I--"

The wave slapped against his brain, almost tickling the base of his skull. He leapt to his feet, hand on the hilt of his lightsaber, senses directed outwards. He could feel Ferus doing the same, reaching out to entwine his awareness with Anakin's, strengthening it in some places and altering it slightly in others. It was a strange sensation, one he'd never felt before with anyone other than Obi-Wan.

They crept towards the perimeter of the embassy grounds, each knowing what the other was planning so clearly that no words were needed. There was now a strangely heavy sense of impending danger pressing on the Jedi, almost deafening in its intensity. They drew closer to a small power station, no larger than a loader droid. A muffled sound, like crying, could be heard coming from the far side of the station housing.

The boys split up and approached the station from two directions. The sense of danger was so loud in Anakin's head that it nearly distorted his vision. He felt a concerned query from Ferus, but brushed it aside. At an unspoken signal, they ignited their sabers and burst around the back of the station.

A young woman was lying crumpled on the ground, obviously injured, possibly beaten. She whimpered slightly and drew away at the sight of the Jedi. The extinguished their sabers after glancing around to see that they were alone, and dropped to the ground by the woman's side.

"Don't be afraid. We're going to help you. What happened?" Ferus took charge immediately. Unable to shake the darkness from his brain, Anakin could only stare at the woman. She was young, perhaps 18, with a long dark braid of hair trailing down her back. Her delicate face was bruised badly, and her clothes were torn. He stared into her liquid brown eyes steadily, his vision becoming hazy. He stumbled slightly.

"Anakin?" Ferus asked, turning to him. "What is it?"

Neither of them saw the woman pull a small device from beneath her clothes. They only felt a short burst of energy, and then, nothing.